The Iowa Public Information Board
COMES NOW Margaret E. Johnson, Executive Director for the Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB), and enters this Dismissal Order:
On October 27, 2020, Alec Ferretti filed formal complaint 20FC:0111, alleging that the Iowa Secretary of State (SOS) violated Iowa Code chapter 22.
Mr. Ferretti alleged that he requested a copy of the Iowa Voter Registration File from the SOS on or about October 27, 2020. He alleged that he received a response from the SOS directing him to request the list as required by Iowa Code section 47.8(4). He stated that this code section allows the SOS to charge a fee for voter registration records that exceeds the ‘actual cost’ language of Iowa Code chapter 22.
He requested that the IPIB advise the SOS that the fees for these records cannot exceed the ‘actual cost’ of retrieving the records and “help me get the records for a price that is commensurate with the actual cost.”
Mr. Ferretti also alleged that the SOS was improperly setting the record fees pursuant to the language of Iowa Code section 47.8(4).
Legal counsel for the SOS responded to the complaint on November 9, 2020. Counsel stated that the records were available to Mr. Ferretti if he paid the fees associated with the costs allowable by Iowa Code section 48A.38(1), which states:
“48A.38 Lists of voters. 1. Any person may request of the registrar and shall receive, upon payment of the cost of preparation, a list of registered voters and other data on registration and participation in elections, in accordance with the following requirements and limitations:....”
Iowa Code section 47.8 establishes the Voter Registration Commission. Among its duties section 47.8(4) states:
“ 4. The registration commission shall annually adopt a set of standard charges to be made for the services the registrar is required to offer to the several commissioners, and for furnishing of voter registration records which are requested by persons other than the registrar, the state commissioner or any commissioner pursuant to section 48A.38. These charges shall be sufficient to reimburse the state for the actual cost of furnishing such services or information, and shall be specified by unit wherever possible. The standard charges shall be adopted by the commission by January 15 of each calendar year.”
The SOS does not have the authority to waive or modify the fees adopted by the Voter Registration Commission. According to the SOS website, voter registration lists can be requested online or by telephone. Lists are prepared upon determining the specifics of the list requested, such as jurisdiction, type of election, party, voter status, and list format. Social security numbers, driver license numbers, and non-operator ID numbers are not included. The cost is calculated by the number of registered voters in the jurisdiction requested.
Costs are determined by the number of records to be retrieved: $10.00 for a minimum data retrieval of 20,000 records or less and additional data charges of 50 cents per 1,000 records after that. Additional charges can be added if a specific format (such as CD-ROM or paper) is requested. There is no additional charge for receiving the records by email.
Using this formula, the basic cost charged for the records is $1.00 for every 2000 records. The Voter Registration Commission also provides a voter list subscription for a statewide voter list with updates at a cost of $1,500 per year and other list subscriptions for lesser amounts.
Iowa Code chapter 47 grants the authority to set fees for voter records to the Voter Registration Commision. The records are public records subject to Iowa Code chapter 22, but the Commission sets the fees. The fees are to be sufficient to reimburse the state for the actual cost of furnishing such records.
Iowa Code grants the IPIB the authority to review and enforce violations of Iowa Code chapters 21 and 22. The IPIB is not granted the authority to determine if Iowa Code chapter 47 has been violated. There is insufficient evidence to establish a violation of Iowa Code chapter 22.
Iowa Code section 23.8 requires that a complaint be within the IPIB’s jurisdiction, appear legally sufficient, and have merit before the IPIB accepts a complaint. This complaint does not meet those requirements.
IT IS SO ORDERED: Formal complaint 20FC:0111 is dismissed as legally insufficient pursuant to Iowa Code section 23.8(2) and Iowa Administrative Rule 497-2.1(2)(b).
Pursuant to Iowa Administrative Rule 497-2.1(3), the IPIB may “delegate acceptance or dismissal of a complaint to the executive director, subject to review by the board.” The IPIB will review this Order on December 17, 2020. Pursuant to IPIB rule 497-2.1(4), the parties will be notified in writing of its decision.
By the IPIB Executive Director
Margaret E. Johnson
CERTIFICATE OF MAILING
This document was sent by electronic mail on the ___ day of December, 2020, to:
Molly Widen, legal counsel for the Secretary of State